Christmas in Homestead- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

On first glance, “Christmas in Homestead” seems like a rehash of movies we’ve seen before, but strong acting make this one totally worth it and heartfelt. 
The Story:

A famous movie star, Jessica, is producing a new Christmas movie in the small town of Homestead, Iowa.  Homestead is the perfect small-town of these movies with local gatherings, beautiful and elaborate Christmas traditions, and a hot b&b owner who has the cutest little girl known to man. Oh, and he’s also the town’s mayor.  There is a subplot concerning the town’s festivities potentially being ruined by the filming, but this one is really all about the romance. 

My Thoughts:

I was not particularly excited about this one because I don’t really like the “fancy Hollywood-type” becoming a fish-out-of-water in a small-town, and “aw, shucks!” she really likes it there, eventually.  The reason I usually don’t like these stories is because they make the small-town folks seem more like caricatures than real people and insinuate that everyone would be better off if they just slowed down and took it easy. What this movie does right is show that small-town people are normal people who live regular lives that have the same ups and downs as everyone else.  Is the setting pretty? Sure, but there is a realness as well.  My favorite thing about this movie has to be the secondary characters. From the paparazzo to the bodyguard, the quirky sister, the ex-boyfriend, and the prototypical little girl, all the secondary characters shone with depth that is not normal in movies such as this.  The little girl, Brooklyn Rae Silzer, is the hands-down, best kid actor that I’ve ever seen in a TV movie.  My other fave is Michael Rady as Matt; his inauspicious, regular-guy routine won me over in spades, and I hope to see in many more Hallmark movies.  And Taylor Cole… it isn’t fair how beautiful she is. She was perfectly believable in this role. 

Christmas Satisfaction:

Since this town has lots of Christmas traditions, there was plenty of Christmas spirit to go around, although the story didn’t “need” the backdrop of Christmas to advance the plot. We have a snowman-building contest, town-lighting, and decorations galore. 

The Bottom Line:

The characters drive this one, not the Christmas backdrop or the plot.  But, (I am almost embarrassed to admit) I did cry a few happy tears at the end of this one, and I will watch it again if it happens to be on. 4 ½ stars

Challenge:

I’ve lost count. Is this the 10th movie? 11th? While I enjoyed this one, the movies are piling up like a big ball that is chasing me, gathering dirt as is goes. More to come, assuming I’m not squashed by the ball first.

Broadcasting Christmas- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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“Broadcasting Christmas” is the next Hallmark Christmas movie up for review! Something about my childhood predisposes me to love Dean Cain, and I know that I am not alone in my feelings that he defined Superman for me at a young age. Until Tom Welling could steal my heart. Speaking of, when will we see Tom Welling in one of these movies? Hallmark: if you are listening- I could use some Tom Welling in my Christmas movies. Just saying. Anyway, back to the task at hand: Broadcasting Christmas. After a short run of unimpressive new movies, this one brought back the magic that is the Hallmark Christmas Movie.

The Story:

Charlie is a news anchor that won the job over his ex-flame, Emily, who is now stuck in small-town suburbia doing wacky, personal interest stories. Jackee plays a Hoda/Kathy Lee-type morning show host who needs a new co-host, and Charlie will be up for the job, along with a bitchy Martha Stewart type and a baseball player (?). When Emily catches wind of the job, she goes viral by proclaiming on the news that she deserves a shot.  And it works. So, now these exes will compete against each other, and, of course, rediscover old feelings in the process.

My Thoughts:

Dean Cain and Melissa Joan Hart are old pros, and it shows in the level of acting in this movie.  It was refreshing after some of the other movies from this season.  I was pulled into their story and really enjoyed their competition.  The romance isn’t quite as well-developed as it sometimes is, but the plot itself is stronger, so I wasn’t disappointed.  Also, I guess since the romance is based on an old relationship, it doesn’t need to be as developed as a new one.  I loved Jackee in this role; it was absolutely perfect for her.

Christmas Satisfaction:

Although this is billed as a Christmas movie, the Christmas connection is a little forced.  The stories they broadcast are connected to Christmas, but that is about it.  We have some tree-lighting, music, etc. but no Christmas wishes or anything that is integral to the plot. If you are in need of a movie to get you in the Christmas spirit, you should probably look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line:

This is a good TV movie with good, reliable actors that tell a fun story.  It is certainly worth watching and is much better than some of the offerings from Hallmark this season, but isn’t the most Christmasy or heart-warming. 4 stars

Challenge:

Thanksgiving did me in on the Christmas movie overload, and I am still catching up. I have 4 more movies that I have watched, but haven’t reviewed yet. Stay tuned!

A December Bride- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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Uncomfortable. Forced. Well, okay! Those thoughts pretty much sum up my feelings about “A December Bride”, Hallmark Channel’s 9th offering this year in the Countdown to Christmas line-up. A fake engagement can’t save this one… or can it?

The Story-

FLASHBACK! Layla is engaged and is planning on being a December bride.  Seth introduces Layla’s fiancé to her cousin. There are lots of undertones. So many, in fact, that I thought that there was no chance these two people hadn’t already gotten it on in the coat check room that day. Alas, no. But the meeting sparks something, and we learn that now, in present day, Layla has been invited to the wedding of her cousin and ex. It’s a December wedding, and she is all alone.  The cute neighbor, Cooper, agrees to go with her (can we give Cooper his own movie, please?!), but he gets sick. Enter Seth, who you’ll remember was the guy who kicked off this whole mess in the first place with his over-zealous introductions. One thing leads to another, and we have a fake engagement movie, y’all! Oh, and a boring home decorating side story.

My Thoughts-

Jessica Lowndes is beautiful. There were times in 90210 where she was the best, most interesting actress on screen. Unfortunately, this bar is slightly higher. With actresses like Jaime King knocking it out of the park this year, being beautiful is not enough for a successful Hallmark heroine.  Don’t get me wrong: the story and the whole premise of the December bride thing is worse than her acting, but she is not helping.  Daniel Lissing as Seth is very likeable, and I really believed that he was falling for Layla.  The cliché girly job drives the movie more than it should, and I do not believe that Jessica Lowndes’s character actually could decorate/stage houses to a high level.  She seemed so young and stupid to me, just completely naïve and ditzy.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Unless you consider a sleigh on the front lawn the pinnacle of a Christmas movie, you won’t find much true Christmas spirit here. We do have hot cocoa though, folks! Ooh, it’s hot!

The Bottom Line-

Please, please, please let the next movie be better… This didn’t need to be a Christmas movie; it didn’t do the whole fake fiancé thing particularly well, and even Lissing’s best attempts at winning us over don’t last long enough.  While hate or dislike are both too strong to describe my feelings for this movie, ennui would encompass them. I would not leave this on to decorate my tree or make cookies; I would rather watch a DVR recording of Elf or Prep and Landing.  2 stars

Challenge

9 movies down. They need to get better. So far, A Mistletoe Promise has been the high point of the challenge. Watch that when it reruns…

My Christmas Dream- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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We are clicking right along with our Countdown to Christmas movies from Hallmark, and the most recent offering stars an old favorite: Danica McKellar.  Once again, I get to revisit my childhood via Hallmark movie by seeing Winnie Cooper finally find love. (Poor Kevin!) My Christmas Dream is a very innocuous/bland title for a slightly better-than-average Hallmark Christmas Movie.

The Story-

Christina is a store manager for a large department store, which was founded by Deidre Hall. Or her character. You get the picture. What’s important, is that the boss is played by Deidre Hall, having a blast, getting paid, and chewing the scenery. Oh Marlena! Anyway, Christina has always had dreams of living in Paris and, lo and behold, a job is opening up in Paris if only she impresses her boss with an enormous annual Christmas display.  Kurt is a painter who gets fired in a roundabout way by Christina because he accidentally spills paint on her.  Enter cute kid with wish for his dad to be happy. Guess who his dad is?

My Thoughts-

Danica was perfectly serviceable here, but nothing too impressive. The minority best friend is the worst I’ve ever seen in one of these movies.  Like, she made Danica look uncomfortable trying to act with her.  But, there was a shining star. Well, actually two. First David Haydn-Jones, who played Kurt, is perfectly natural, affable, and charming.  I totally believed his situation, his relationship with his mom, and even his relationship with the overly cutesy kid. The other standout performance was from Bruce Dawson as Henry, the boss’s old flame.  He made a small part very poignant and added some much-needed truth to this movie. Deidre Hall was perfectly over the top.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Ehhh. We have the whole “you don’t know what Christmas really is, so we’re gonna show you” storyline which mainly features the kid and decorating and eating.  Christina works with Kurt to create a Christmas display in order to win the job, but also has to discover Christmas spirit in the process. Other than that, there’s nothing especially Christmassy to recommend this one.

The Bottom Line-

This was more of a work/love story with a Christmas overlay and a saccharine kid.  Haydn-Jones makes this watchable, and I might would watch it again, just to swoon over him.  Danica McKeller is always pretty good in these, and this was no different. But, if you are looking for something to really put you in the Christmas spirit, I’m not sure this would be the movie to do it.  3 stars

Challenge-

This was movie #8, and fatigue is beginning to set in. I’m going to need something pretty good, and soon, in order to keep my momentum up.  There have been a few too many blah movies in a row. I’m tempted to watch one of the really good ones from last year just to boost my spirits…

Christmas Cookies- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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Perhaps the Hallmark Christmas Movie most hazardous to your diet this year, “Christmas Cookies” is a slight veer from the predictability that usually arises when a corporate suit descends upon a small town.  The always-beautiful Jill Wagner makes this one more believable and more watchable than you might expect.

The Story-

The town of Cookie Jar (yes, I already want to go) has been a long-standing Christmas destination, due to its most famous export: Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies.  Even Hannah, our heroine and corporate climber, visited as a child.  Of course, she has been sent by her corporation to negotiate the terms of the sale of Aunt Sally’s after the death of the founder.  And after they buy the company, they want to move production to Buffalo, leaving the town of Cookie Jar without its namesake cookies. Jake is the man who has inherited Aunt Sally’s, so Hannah must convince him to sign the contracts.  Bet you can’t guess what happens…

My Thoughts-

I was surprised by how much I liked Hannah as portrayed by Jill Wagner. She isn’t the typical corporate suit who hates Christmas and needs to see the spirit of the season etc. Hannah is already a good person: funny, loving, sarcastic, good with kids.  Of course, Jake likes her.  Now, being in the town of Cookie Jar does remind her of how much she likes to eat cookies, and just a side note— if Wagner eats cookies like she does in this movie and still looks the way she does, life just isn’t fair. Please let her normally eat salads, Lord!  Stepping out of my jealousy and getting back to the story- the blossoming relationship is believable, and the cookies look amazing.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Cookie Jar is a Christmas lover’s dream. What is it with these small Christmas towns in movies this year? Why can’t I visit one? Are any for real? Anyway, there’s the obvious cookies in the title… over and over and over again.  There are sled races and snowmen, presents and big family dinners. Lots of Christmas spirit here.

Bottom Line-

I seriously had to stop watching the movie and make Christmas cookies.  The ending was a bit trite and tied up with a ridiculous “realization”, but I would watch this one again if it happened to come on while I was cooking or cleaning.  And then I would have to make more cookies. When is it showing again…? 4 stars

Challenge-

Movie #5 down! Anyone have a new favorite yet?

 

Every Christmas Has A Story- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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Aunt Becky is back! Lori Loughlin was perfect as a news anchor back when she was Aunt Becky on Full House, and she is back to her old job in the newest Hallmark Christmas movie.  “Every Christmas Has a Story” is one of those movies that, although they are full of tried and true tropes, is still fun.

The Story-

Kate is a news anchor of a morning talk show who happens to work with her ex from college, Jack. A microphone mistake at the end of a broadcast leads to Kate exclaiming for all the world to hear that she “doesn’t really like Christmas”.  Of course, viewers protest, advertisers threaten to pull, and Kate needs to fix her image or be fired.  Coming to the rescue is the (fake) town of Hollyvale, North Dakota.  (I lived in North Dakota for 5 years, so there is no fooling me about what is and isn’t in that state.) Kate is invited to Hollyvale to find her Christmas spirit because they are just bursting with it.  Of course, her ex-boyfriend and producer must go as well.

My Thoughts-

When people in these things don’t like Christmas, the reasons and believability of said dislike range. I must say, I didn’t really buy Kate’s reason and her reaction when things begin to turn.  I blame the writing more than Loughlin, but relationships and character development are what is lacking in this movie.  Silly mysteries and odd town characters are a focus (stop trying to do Gilmore Girls in a 2 hour movie! The reason that worked is that we got to know and love those people and that town!).  I hated that we barely got to know Jack and what was going on in his head. Again, the acting is not the problem: the story is. I thought Loughlin’s daughter as Mia was great and funny.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Christmas is the focus of this movie, not just an afterthought.  There are no magical or supernatural elements at work here, just sweet, home-town Christmas in a place that defines quaint.  Kate participates in a variety of Christmas activities to “win her over”, and Jack dresses up as an elf. So, there’s that.

The Bottom Line-

I have a feeling this movie is going to land somewhere in the middle of the pack of all the Hallmark Christmas movies this year. Fun, but not much true emotion. Nothing too different or intriguing. Will you enjoy watching it as you put up your tree? Yes. 3 ½ stars

Challenge- This was movie #4 this year! Is anyone still with me? What has been your favorite one so far?

A Perfect Christmas- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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“A Perfect Christmas” is Hallmark’s 3rd entry this year into their Countdown to Christmas promotion, and it is definitely a departure from the others. At the beginning when we are introduced to a cute couple who are shopping for a Christmas tree, I began trying to figure out who my couple that I would be rooting to get together were. My thought process went something like this… “The girl seems like a likely suspect: maybe the guy is a typical jerk boyfriend. Hmmm. Well, he doesn’t seem like a jerk; he’s kinda cute. What!?! They are married? Oh no! He’s gonna die, and she’s going to be a widow. That’s so sad. Wait. The story is continuing and no one is dead, and they are together… OH, this is not THAT kind of Christmas movie. Huh.”

The Story-

So, no. It isn’t about a cute couple getting together, but it is about an adorable newlywed couple who are experiencing a really tough Christmas. She is pregnant, and he is losing his job. And his overwhelming mom lost her luggage, and his brother’s family’s hotel reservation was cancelled, and her father’s camper broke down… Yep, this is that kind of story.

My Thoughts-

I don’t love this type of story. It usually makes me feel secondary stress for the couple until things finally work out. And the things working out usually takes so long to happen, that I spend an entire movie feeling secondary stress. And this movie didn’t even give me a love story to root for. The acting was fine; I feel sorry for these lovely young actors who were probably so excited to be cast in a Hallmark movie, only to find out that it was this one. To be fair, this is not a BAD movie. It just really isn’t my cup of tea. I need my Christmas movies to provide that happy, comfy feeling, to make me feel good about life and Christmas. This movie never really got there for me.

Christmas Satisfaction-

There is plenty here, but most feels contrived.  They have snowball fights, make gingerbread houses, open presents on Christmas Day, and visit a Christmas concert that they claim is amazing, but is not.  No supernatural wishes or Santa (other than a costume) in this one.

The Bottom Line-

If you like this kind of story, go for it! The acting is good. If not, watch many of the other great Christmas movies that are coming this season. 3 stars!

Challenge- 3 movies down! I hope the next one is better than this was. It features Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin for everyone who didn’t grow up on Full House), so I am hopeful!

The Mistletoe Promise- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

“The Mistletoe Promise” is Hallmark’s second entry this year into the Countdown to Christmas movie promotion. With a typical name and typical selections of actors for the leads, you would expect this movie to follow the pack, but you would be wrong. “The Mistletoe Promise” breaks the mold by being a movie about adults, for adults. The Christmas magic is not sprinkled on, but comes out of the goodness of people. 

The Story-

A divorced owner of a travel agency, Elise, has a hard time with Christmas because it is during that season in which her jerk ex-husband and co-owner of the agency tries to bully her in to selling the business to him. Even though she built it before she even met him. Nick has just been tapped to compete for partner in his law firm, but the firm is very family-friendly, and a girlfriend or wife seems to be a “must”.  When he encounters Elise in a food-court, they share their disdain for Christmas and offer to help each other make it through the season.  This “promise” morphs into a contract in which they will pretend to be dating to help keep her ex-husband at bay, and help him make partner.

My Thoughts-

Like I said before, this movie is about adults and adult situations. Therefore, it feels more real than Hallmark’s usual fare.  Santa isn’t coming along to make silly things happen to Elise’s mean ex-husband. Ok, I know she started as a model, but can I just say that Jaime King is beyond gorgeous? And girl can really act. I felt every bit of Elise’s pain and rejection, her insecurities (even though she is a goddess) and her desire to overcome.  Perfection.  Luke MacFarlane is hot, very believable as the hardworking lawyer who has been hurt and has pushed past the pain with work.  See what I mean about the adult stuff? Yes, people actually DO work in real life and don’t just sit around making Christmas cookies with their moms and visiting old inns. I’m not disparaging those movies; they are a great escape and part of the reason I began my quest to watch all the Hallmark movies, but it is refreshing to watch a movie about real people finding Christmas spirit in themselves and just trying to be good people. 

Christmas Satisfaction-

The premise of them both hating the Christmas season is there, as well as a snowman-building contest and some Christmas parties.  Oh, and carolers. Let’s talk about the carolers for a second: who would go up to someone and start singing, and when they look super uncomfortable, continue singing and get closer? If you do this, you would be the worst caroler in the world. I felt secondary discomfort for the main characters who were forced to endure this caroling torture.  But, the Christmas spirit is very much present in this movie, and is perhaps even more palpable because it suggests that we, no matter how busy we are, what background we come from, if we have kids or not, can share goodness with the world. 

The Bottom Line-

Way to go, Hallmark, on this thoughtful, well-acted Christmas movie! It is based on a book by Richard Paul Evans, which probably helped the story, but the execution was very good and it is another top-notch entry into their line-up of Christmas movies. 5 stars!

Two movies down! 17 to go… How are you keeping up with the challenge?

Hallmark Christmas Movie Challenge AND “A Wish For Christmas” Review

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“A Wish For Christmas” is the first Hallmark Christmas movie of the season! So, last year I got hooked on Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched most of them, including the ones from past years.  There was something comforting and happy about seeing a couple come together in that magical setting which usually involves snow, hot chocolate, and snuggly scarves. When I started this blog a few months ago, I had the idea to include Hallmark movies in my reviews and was especially looking forward to this Christmas season.  You see, I intend not only to watch all the new Hallmark Christmas movies this year… I plan to review them on this blog. With like 20 movies coming at me like snowballs, I figured I’d better get started. So here goes!

The Story-

Hallmark movie fave and staple, Lacey Chabert, is back as Sara: a shy girl who tends to allow people to treat her as a doormat.  After her jerk boss steals her idea, she makes a wish at a Christmas party to the “fake” Santa to be brave and to stand up for herself. You go girl! The wish is granted, and she takes the opportunity to let previously mentioned jerk boss know how unfair it was for him to treat her in that way. Hot big boss overhears, and offers to let her pitch the idea with him in Seattle to the client.

My Thoughts-

Lacey Chabert is totally reliable and perfect in these roles.  Although this wasn’t my favorite Chabert Hallmark movie (I would have a hard time choosing between All of My Heart and Matchmaker Santa), I thought she did a great job of showing the transition of someone who is learning to stand up for themselves.  Okay, that being said- can we talk about Paul Greene for a minute?!? To me, he is just the perfect sensitive, yet still manly, guy.  I fell for him back in “Anything for Love” with Erika Christensen as a male nurse whose best friend pretended he was a doctor on match.com (DVR that one people, it is so good.) He did not disappoint here; he just totally represents that good guy we all want. The story was a nice play on some familiar territory: I am a sucker for wishes that you get to see play out.  The end was a little bit rushed and not completely as fleshed out as I would have liked.

Christmas Satisfaction-

We got Santa, a wish, Christmas cookies, tree shopping, a Christmas party, and some nice scarves and hats.  The Santa stuff was well done (better than most), but some of the rest felt a little shoehorned in. Did this story HAVE to happen at Christmas? Well, the wish did, but the business stuff didn’t. But, the wish gave her the confidence to do the rest, so it works. I am sure I will see Christmas movies this year that are a bigger stretch for the holiday.

The Bottom Line-

If you are reading this, you have probably already seen this movie, or have plans to. And you should.  It is a perfect movie to cuddle up with a big blanket and pretend it isn’t 80 degrees outside. (Or is that just me in Louisiana?) I am definitely ready for some Christmas cookies after this one, and I am ready for more Hallmark Christmas movies. Bring it on!!! 4 stars

PS- If you would like to join me in my Hallmark Christmas movie challenge, I would love to hear your thoughts and keep track of the movies we watch. Please comment below!

Summer of Dreams- Hallmark Movie Review

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The first cassette tape that I owned was “Out of the Blue” by Debbie Gibson, and my “electric youth”-scented childhood was played out with her music as the soundtrack.  So, when I saw that the newest Hallmark movie, “Summer of Dreams”, featured my childhood idol, I couldn’t wait to see this fusion that must have been created with me in mind.

The Story–  Debbie Gibson plays “fictional” Debbie Taylor who happened to burst onto the pop scene when she was 15 with the hit single “Only in my Dreams” and has been making music ever since. (This role must have been a huge stretch… ) Debbie has been dropped by her label, pushed aside by her sort-of boyfriend, and sang her last concert in a mattress store.  She needs a change of scenery, so she heads to her sister’s cozy, ideal house and life to regroup.

My Thoughts– Although the story was a bit trite like most Hallmark Movies, the acting was pretty good, especially from Ms. Gibson and the actress who plays her sister, Pascale Hutton. Would I have preferred to watch Debbie Gibson sing her back catalogue for an hour and a half instead? Yes, but as far as Hallmark Movies go, this wasn’t a bad one. It was certainly better than Mariah Carey’s movie from last year where she just made me feel uncomfortable every time she was on screen. (Come to think of it, she was the soundtrack of my teens.) The love story, while not entirely captivating, was chill and believable, and most of the kids in her Glee-style choir were watchable. But, when Debbie Gibson sings, you just wish it wouldn’t stop. She obviously has loads of talent and stage presence.

Season Satisfaction– While advertised as a summer movie, the kids are in school and there is nothing mentioned that is summer-related. But, Debbie Gibson does seem like a summery person, so I guess it works…? Seriously, I read that she came to Hallmark with this idea and they fast-tracked it, so I imagine they called it whatever they needed to air it ASAP.

The Bottom Line– If you like Debbie Gibson, Glee, or teacher movies, you will enjoy this like a nice mint julep on a summer’s day. It goes down easy and puts a smile on your face.